A group of Montagnard asylum seekers has reached the capital and individuals are being questioned by Cambodian authorities there, officials said Monday.
The group had been in hiding in remote Ratanakkiri province since October, and rights workers feared they would be rounded up by local security forces and sent back to Vietnam.
Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said Monday they are at a safe house in the capital and are being questioned. If they are “fake” refugees, they will be deported, he said.
“We are preparing to interview them under cooperation with the UN in Cambodia,” he said. “We have always cooperated with the UN on Montagnards, but the final decision is made under Cambodia’s authority.”
Montagnards have long said they face persecution in Vietnam, after aiding US forces in the war there. However, in the past some asylum seekers have been labeled “economic” refugees and returned from Cambodia.
Ny Chakrya, head of investigation at the rights group Adhoc, said he hoped the UN workers on the case will not be pressured by Cambodia to hastily send the Montagnards back.